Monthly Archives: August 2013

Enabling Animal Exploitation

McDonald’s has announced a new non-vegan vegetarian wrap.

And some of the welfarist groups, such as Vegan Outreach, are declaring “Progress for the animals!”

Progress?

I think not.

Think about it: There are, in essence, two groups of people: (1) those who are concerned about animals morally but are continuing to eat animal foods and use animal products; (2) those who really do regard animals as things and who don’t care about animals.

We might be able to change the hearts and minds of some of those in the second group but the real target audience is the first group.

And, with respect to those who care about animals morally, we should never be encouraging the consumption of any animal products. We ought to make clear at every point that if we regard animals as having moral value, veganism is the only rational response. We should not be promoting anything short of veganism. We certainly should not be encouraging people to think that we do right by the animals when we eat a non-vegan wrap at McDonald’s.

If someone who cares about animals wants to do less than be vegan, that should be her/his choice and not as a result of “animal advocates” putting a stamp of approval on any consumption of animal products.

The new McDonald’s product is not vegan. For that ground alone, vegans should not promote it or praise it or encourage its consumption. And it remains a mystery to me as to why welfarists believe that promoting McDonald’s is ever in the interest of animals.

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If you are not vegan, please go vegan. Veganism is about nonviolence. First and foremost, it’s about nonviolence to other sentient beings. But it’s also about nonviolence to the earth and nonviolence to yourself.

And never, ever buy into the nonsensical notion that we need to promote “happy exploitation” in order to get people to go vegan. It’s the opposite: the entire “happy exploitation” industry has one goal: to make the public more comfortable about animal exploitation.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

©2013 Gary L. Francione

Animal Welfare Regulation, “Happy Exploitation,” and Speciesism

The Problem: Treating Humans and Nonhumans Differently

I maintain that if we cannot morally justify animal exploitation, we ought not to be advocating for (supposedly) more “humane” or “happy” animal exploitation.

Some of my reasons for my position are more practical.

For example, I do not think that the welfare reforms that are the subject of the welfare campaigns pursued by the large organizations provide any significant level of protection for nonhuman animals. For example, for laying hens, I think the difference between a conventional battery cage and an “enriched” cage is the difference between “torture” and a “tiny bit less torture”–at best. These “reforms,” such as they are, are usually phased in over a lengthy period and sometimes not phased in at all. And there are always problems enforcing these “reforms” to make sure they are implemented.

Moreover, I think that most of these reforms would occur anyway because they seek to modify practices that are economically inefficient (e.g., electric stunning of chickens in favor of controlled-atmosphere killing; eliminating the veal crate in favor of small social units) or, to the extent that they increase production costs, they do so slightly and industry benefits overall (e.g., the “enriched” battery cage).

And I think that when animal organizations support welfare reforms, they cannot help but present the supposedly “higher welfare” products as morally desirable and as resulting in more “compassionate” exploitation, and that has the effect of encouraging people who are concerned about the morality of consuming animals to continue to consume animals, rather than to focus them on veganism as a moral baseline and as the clear answer–both as an individual matter and as a social matter–to the problem of animal exploitation. So pursuing welfare reform has the effect of being counterproductive in terms of advancing veganism.

In this essay, I will discuss some of these practical issues, but I will do so in the context of exploring a more theoretical reason for rejecting welfare reform–what I view as the inherent speciesism of the welfarist approach.

Although rape occurs with alarming frequency, we don’t have campaigns for “humane” rape. Child molestation is an epidemic, but we don’t campaign for “humane” child abuse. Chattel slavery exists in various parts of the world and there are millions who are enslaved, but we don’t campaign for “humane” slavery.

But where animals are concerned, many animal advocates campaign for and promote (supposedly) “humane” or “happy” exploitation.

I see this behavior, which differs depending on whether the context involves human or nonhumans, as problematic.

An Example: What a Bargain! $1.99 per pound for “Happy” Chicken

Let’s consider one example of what I am talking about.

Here is a sign that I saw by the entrance to my local Whole Foods:

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In addition to advertising the selling of some poor little chicken whose sad little life is apparently worth $1.99 per pound, the sign says “Global Animal Partnership, Animal Welfare Rating 2: Enriched Environment.”

The “Global Animal Partnership” is “a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 2008,” which

brings together farmers, scientists, ranchers, retailers, and animal advocates—a diverse group with the common goal of wanting to improve the welfare of animals in agriculture. Our signature program, the 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Standards, recognizes and rewards producers for their welfare practices, promotes and facilitates continuous improvement, and better informs consumers about the production systems they choose to support.

An “enriched environment” means that the chickens are kept indoors but are provided with things, such as raised platforms and bales of hay, that allow for expression of natural behaviors.

Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, is on the Board of Directors of the Global Animal Partnership.

But before you criticize HSUS, be aware that Pacelle is not alone in his support of the Whole Foods “happy exploitation” program. In the mid-2000s, when Whole Foods started its “happy exploitation” program, just about every large animal organization in the United States–People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Farm Sanctuary, Mercy For Animals, Compassion Over Killing, and Vegan Outreach–joined Peter Singer and HSUS in expressing their “appreciation and support” for the “pioneering” Whole Foods program of what I call “happy exploitation.”

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Whole Foods–quite understandably–used this letter for PR purposes. Peter Singer was asked about this:

How do you feel about that letter being posted in the PR section of the Whole Foods website and when asked about the treatment of farmed animals and humane standards, John Mackey refers to it?

Singer replied:

I don’t have any problem with that. I support what the letter says and they’re welcome to use it. I mean, we wrote it to them expecting them to use it. It wasn’t just a personal letter to John Mackey to be put in his filing cabinet.

PETA gave Whole foods an award:

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VegNews had Whole Foods CEO on its cover, gave Mackey an award, and named Whole Foods “Favorite Natural Foods Store” for four consecutive years.

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Let me state clearly here that I regard the partnership between animal advocates and Whole Foods as nothing short of obscene. It is truly morally repugnant. Most of us would never think that something like this would be acceptable in the human context. Imagine promoting some–any–”humane” version of torture. Imagine giving awards to humans who tortured other humans but did so more “humanely.” Imagine issuing public statements expressing “appreciation and support” for “pioneering” sorts of torture.

These things are hard to imagine because most of us would rule them out from the beginning where humans are concerned. That is, we would say that, although it’s always better to impose less suffering than more suffering, and so it’s better to torture less than more, having a campaign for more “humane” torture–even if it could reduce the torture slightly–would be wrong because it would miss the point: it is wrong to torture humans at all. It is imperative that we be clear that our opposition to torture is not about reducing suffering; it is about affirming a basic human right.

But those who promote animal welfare campaigns and who express their “appreciation and support” of “pioneering” programs of “happy exploitation” in situations in which they would not support similar campaigns if humans were involved are doing just that: they are denying the fundamental moral right of nonhuman animals not to be treated as replaceable resources.

In my view, this involves speciesism: we are treating human exploitation and nonhuman exploitation in different ways and we don’t have a good reason to do so. Continue reading

Social Justice, Human Rights, and Being Vegan

Non-vegans frequently point to the admittedly terrible condition of the world and ask vegans: what about important issues of social justice involving humans?; why aren’t you doing more to address those issues?

I have four responses:

First, there is no conflict here. Being vegan does not require that you stop doing any other good work you do on any other social justice issue. Being vegan just requires that while you are doing that good work, you don’t eat, wear, or use animal products.

Second, 99% of the people who ask these questions aren’t doing anything about the other issues except asking vegans why they are not doing something about them instead of promoting veganism.

Third, veganism–at least as I discuss it–is about nonviolence and violence is what is at the root of all of the other social justice problems.

Fourth, animal agriculture is causing a great deal of human suffering and is exacerbating social injustice.

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If you are not vegan, please go vegan. Veganism is about nonviolence. First and foremost, it’s about nonviolence to other sentient beings. But it’s also about nonviolence to the earth and nonviolence to yourself.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

©2013 Gary L. Francione

A Simple Question

An article, Minority Rules: Scientists Discover Tipping Point for the Spread of Ideas, reports:

Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society. The scientists, who are members of the Social Cognitive Networks Academic Research Center (SCNARC) at Rensselaer, used computational and analytical methods to discover the tipping point where a minority belief becomes the majority opinion. The finding has implications for the study and influence of societal interactions ranging from the spread of innovations to the movement of political ideals.
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“When the number of committed opinion holders is below 10 percent, there is no visible progress in the spread of ideas. It would literally take the amount of time comparable to the age of the universe for this size group to reach the majority,” said SCNARC Director Boleslaw Szymanski, the Claire and Roland Schmitt Distinguished Professor at Rensselaer. “Once that number grows above 10 percent, the idea spreads like flame.”

So here’s my question:

Why is every animal advocate and every large animal organization not working to get to that 10% rather than promoting welfare reform, “compassionate” consumption, and “happy” exploitation?

Why are HSUS, ASPCA, Farm Sanctuary, Mercy for Animals, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Compassion Over Killing, Compassion In World Farming (CIWF), The Humane League, and World Society for the Protection of Animals campaigning for “enriched” battery cages, particularly when HSUS and CIWF have explicitly acknowledged that “enriched” cages fail to provide an acceptable level of welfare?

Why are PETA, HSUS, Farm Sanctuary, Mercy for Animals, Compassion Over Killing, Viva!, and Vegan Outreach signing a public letter expressing “appreciation and support” to Whole Foods for its “pioneering” program, of “happy” exploitation?

Yes, I know “we won’t have a vegan world overnight” (the favorite way of welfarists to mischaracterize the abolitionist position) but we don’t have to get the whole world to go vegan “overnight.” We just need to build a solid vegan movement of 10%. But let’s be conservative and say that we need to reach 20%. We could do that.

But we’ll never get there as long as we are telling people that they can do right by animals by consuming “happy” animal products.

We will, of course, appeal to donors who want to continue eating animals and are happy to pay for a stamp of approval from animal advocates so that they can consume animal products with a clear conscience.

*****

If you are not vegan, please go vegan. Veganism is about nonviolence. First and foremost, it’s about nonviolence to other sentient beings. But it’s also about nonviolence to the earth and nonviolence to yourself.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

©2013 Gary L. Francione